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Backup Generator Basics


Is your home subject to frequent power outages? Perhaps a backup generator can provide a short-term solution.

In communities that experience frequent power outages, many homeowners have invested in small backup generators. Many generators are affordable, but you should know what each model can and cannot do around the house for ultimate safety.

Some generators for home use are wired into the home's circuitry. This should always be done by a professional. However, if you are shopping for a unit that will only be used a few times each year, then a more portable model may be the answer.

First, you should understand that a portable backup generator will not operate as a complete replacement for lost power, especially if your home is all-electric. You'll have to decide which items have to stay on in emergency outages and then shop accordingly.

Generators are fueled by gasoline, diesel, natural gas, or propane. Some generators should be run once a month to keep all components in working condition. A fuel extender can be added as an alternative in some models.

Most professionals will recommend that a transfer switch be installed at the breaker box. This allows a safe transfer from home power to generator. However, this is not essential with the smaller models. New owners should read the manuals and be familiar with all operating procedures.

Never operate any generator inside the home or any other facility. They should have at least a four-foot clearance around the sides and tops, but should also be protected from the elements. Situate the generator away from building openings, such as doors and windows to prevent exhaust fumes from entering.

A generator should never be plugged into a wall outlet. It can cause a dangerous surge, referred to as backfeeding. Not only can it damage the generator, but can send electrical pulses into the line and cause injury to repairmen. Always plug the generator directly into the appliance that is to be operated. Before you purchase, make sure the generator will have enough outlet space for your needs.

Small generators can have several uses, in addition to providing limited home lighting in an emergency. They can be used on boats, in recreational vehicles, and on camping or day trips. They are also used at construction sites for use with electrically powered tools.

Finally, the generator should be selected based on the expected use to power the largest appliance in your home. A generator should never be run at maximum power. The "rated" power will indicate the maximum number of appliances or wattage the unit can safely handle.


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